Fraser v. Wyeth Inc.
To prevail on a defective design claim, a plaintiff must prove that the product is unreasonably dangerous, pursuant to Potter v. Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co., a 1997 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. In or about 1995, the plaintiff, Margaret Fraser, allegedly began taking a hormone medication known as Prempro, which combines estrogen and progestin. Fraser ceased consuming the hormone medication, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fraser underwent chemotherapy. Fraser sued Wyeth Inc. and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., which allegedly manufactured the hormone medication, and alleged that they breached a warranty, failed to warn, and violated the Connecticut Product Liability Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The defendants moved for summary judgment and argued that warnings that accompanied the hormone medication specifically warned about the possibility of breast cancer. Fraser's doctor testified that the manufacturers' warning stated that the risks of breast cancer were minimal. A reasonable jury could find that warnings about breast cancer that accompanied the hormone medication were inadequate to inform Fraser and her doctor about the risks of breast cancer associated with the medication. A reasonable jury also could infer that if different warnings had been provided, Fraser's doctor would have changed his approach, and Fraser would not have consumed the hormone medication. The court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's failure-to-warn count. A manufacturer, to avoid responsibility for an unavoidably unsafe product, must provide sufficient warnings, and the court also denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on their claim that the hormone medication was incapable of being made safe. To prevail on defective design, Fraser is not required to prove failure to adequately test, or that a safer, alternative design existed. The court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the defective design count. The court dismissed the breach-of-express warranty claim, because the defendants acknowledged that there was risk and did not guaranty that the product was free from all harmful effects. The court also dismissed the CUTPA claim, because the Connecticut Product Liability Act provides the exclusive remedy for defective design and failure to warn.